the big picture ~ 1/19/2011

For those who may not be familiar with the term “self-publishing”, it can be simply defined as the publishing of books and other media by the authors of those works, rather than by established, third-party publishers. Though the definition makes it seem simple by its implication that an author/musician/etc. opts to take control over their work rather than rely on a big name publisher/producer/etc. to sign them, it is-in reality-anything but simple (or easy).

Don’t get me wrong, there are Pros to this crazy game (to me, it’s more like a million-piece puzzle in which I gleefully, yet depressingly, find one small portion of sky on a rare basis). For one, I do get to have 100% control over every aspect. This includes content, title, format, cover design, timeline, distribution, marketing, and more. And as CEO of my own destiny, I also retain more of any profits I might make. Another great part of doing it myself is I can do as little or as much as I want without another person dictating my moves or schedule. I get out what I put into it, and I reap the rewards of any effort.

Okay, so that all sounds just peachy, doesn’t it? I mean, seriously, how much better can it be? Total control, own boss, flexible timelines, higher profits. Well, here comes the ugly truth…for every enticingly sweet Pro there exists a profound (and somewhat mean) Con alter-ego, many of which can drive an aspiring writer bonkers (and let it be known that as a stay-at-home mom, I don’t have far to go!).

The flip side is that as someone who has 100% control over everything, I’m also the sole employee responsible for afore-mentioned content, title, format, cover design, timeline, distribution, marketing, and more! If I don’t do the work, nothing gets done. I must wear all the hats of a traditional publisher as well as imagine/write/edit new stories, research valid resources (while weeding out scams), and cold call potential sales opportunities. Time becomes more than a premium, it becomes my most valuable asset! Which of course means I have to be disciplined, overly creative, and blame no one but myself when the book sucks…

Another bummer is that every penny I spend is from my own pocket; there is no exorbitant advance check waiting in my mailbox. The start up costs, inventory, giveaways, promotional efforts, travel expenses, and more all come from my family’s budget. Of course, that would mean I keep all profits as well, but I think it should be known the profit margin per book is small and the ability to overcome initial investments per book is difficult. Yes, I’ve made money (yippee), but I’ve spent more (boo). However, I consider this to be par for the course. I’m building a business, and there is an investment to be made (of which I know my limits-if this doesn’t pan out in a viable amount of time, I’m outta here)!

One other note: there is a stigma to self-publishing. Many “purists” believe the only way to be successful or recognized as a credible author is to have their work published by a major house. This is an in-depth debate of which I don’t care to participate. I am too new to this business to choose a side, and I see the merits of both. Oh and don’t get me started on the reviews by complete strangers…you can be smiling in the morning and in a murderous rage by lunch…

Let it be known my ramblings and frustrations are experienced by many in the “indie” publishing community. However, many of them are far better focused, dedicate much more time, and know a heck of a lot more about this business than me. Luckily, it is a gracious group of people who openly share ideas and methods and continue to enlighten me on a regular basis.

Where does all this leave me, I wonder? My reality is that self-publishing is (for now at least) a little slice of heaven on earth. It has given me options where I once believed there were none.  In essence, it helped me pursue a dream (which is far from being fulfilled by the way), and it allows me to do what I want and at my own pace. You see, I’m still a wife and mother, and I need to know that while I’m restricted by some of life’s boundaries, I have many doors left to open when I have the time to do so. And even though others may not understand the gravity writing holds for me (publishing my own book is one of my top 5 life-changers), I continue to focus on The Big Picture. And if I peer a bit closer, I think its image is actually a mirror reflecting Me as the person I was truly meant to be…
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